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Renewable Energy Beats Natural Gas for New Capacity in 2014

Tom Schueneman's picture

Environmental writer, journalist and web publisher. Founder of

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  • Feb 6, 2015

new energy capacityIt was a close race throughout the year, but in the end new generating capacity from renewable sources beat out new natural gas capacity by 1.16 percent in 2014.

Of the 49.81 percent of new capacity from renewable energy, more than one-quarter, or 26.52 percent, came from wind energy while solar power provided another 20.40 percent of the total. Other renewable energy sources, including biomass, geothermal and hydropower contributed an additional 2.89 percent.

Natural gas accounted for 48.65 percent of new generating capacity for 2014, or 7,485  megawatts (MW), just a slight gain from the 7,378 MW brought online in 2013. Renewable capacity jumped 12.08 percent from 6,837 MW in 2013 to 7,663 MW last year, according to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s latest Energy Infrastructure Update report.

One coal plant came online last year, for a total of 106 MW, while an upgrade to a nuclear facility added an additional 71 MW. Five small “units” of oil generation totaled 47 MW of new capacity.

New capacity from renewable energy sources in 2014 was 34 times that from coal, oil and nuclear combined – or 72 times that from coal, 108 times that from nuclear, and 163 times that from oil.

Renewable energy now contributes 16.63 percent of total installed generating capacity in the United States, more than oil and nuclear combined.

“Can there any longer be doubt about the emerging trends in new U.S. electrical capacity?” noted Ken Bossong, Executive Director of the SUN DAY Campaign. “Coal, oil, and nuclear have become historical relics and it is now a race between renewable sources and natural gas with renewables taking the lead.”

Image credit: Mugley, courtesy flickr

The post Renewable Energy Beats Natural Gas for New Capacity in 2014 appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

Mike V's picture
Mike V on Feb 5, 2015



Comparing unlike things is worthless. Solar and wind power have low capacity factors while gas, coal, and nuclear power plants have high capacity factors. It is nonsense to compare the two.

Geoffrey Styles's picture
Geoffrey Styles on Feb 6, 2015

Renewables are making great strides, and these stats are an indication of this. However, what really matters is energy, not capacity, in the form of expected generation.

A new combined cycle gas plant can be expected to operate at from 40-85% of its nameplate capacity over the course of a year, while a nuclear plant would be around 90%. By comparison a new solar array, depending on location, will deliver on average 12-27% of rated capacity, and a new wind turbine from 15-35%, depending on local wind resource.  That’s the “capacity factor” difference alluded to by Mike V. below. So the gas plants and nuclear capacity added in 2014 will likely generate a lot more electricity, on average, than the new wind turbines and solar panels.

A bigger milestone will occur when the renewable capacity added in a year equates to more expected Megawatt-hours of generation than the gas, coal, etc. capacity added that year. When will that occur?

Steve K9's picture
Steve K9 on Feb 7, 2015

Capacity …. as always.  Never you mind that capacity factors are 10 or 20% and you have no control whatever on when the power arrives.  Just flip on your light switch quickly when the wind is blowing and read that book in a hurry.

Tom Schueneman's picture
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